Volleyball Canada


The Beach Worlds are Back!

The reigning World champions in Beach Volleyball may have timed their peak to perfection in 2022. Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes begin play at the 13th edition of the Beach Volleyball World Championships in Rome riding a hot streak. Pavan (Kitchener, ON) & Humana-Paredes (Toronto, ON) defeated Brazilians Barbara Seixas & Carolina Salgado 2-1(21-19, 20-22, 15-7) last Sunday in the final of the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Elite 16 event in Jurmala, Latvia for their 10th victory together but first title since September of 2019 (Hawaii Open on AVP Tour). In fact, the Canadians beat five different teams from Brazil on their march to the title.

In the words of Humana-Paredes, "Our block defense really came together in Latvia and we have to continue doing that." She added some other keys to success for Rome, “we need to control the things that we can control (namely pass/set) and slow the game down to our pace and take it point by point.” Also, “we need to use our serves as weapons, not just as ways to start a point. Every team is so good here that we have to try to get them off balance from the get-go… even if that means missing a few."

If the Pavan/Melissa duo does all of those things on the sand at the Foro Italico then they could very well challenge for gold again. Three years ago in Hamburg, Pavan/Melissa entered the World Championships as the number 9 seeds but proceeded to go 7-0 including a dramatic victory over USA’s April Ross & Alix Klinemann in the gold medal final (23-21,23-21). It was Canada’s first gold medal in beach volleyball at the senior edition of the World Championships. 

Ross and Klinemann – the reigning Olympic champions - will not be present at this year’s Worlds but there is no shortage of high quality teams including Tokyo Olympic medalists from Australia (Clancy/Mariafe) and Switzerland (Heidrich/Verge-Depre) and powerful Brazilian pairs Barbara/Carol, Duda/Ana Patricia and Talita/Rebecca as well as the new World #1 Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon from the Netherlands. Pavan/Melissa have a strong record against this dutch team with five wins and just one loss. The loss came in pool play in Jurmala and the Canadians responded with four consecutive victories after that setback.

Pavan/Melissa, seeded 10th for their title defense, begin their World Championships on Friday morning at 10am eastern with a match against 39th seeded Australians Georgia Johnson & Alisha Stevens. That will be followed up with Pool J matches against teams from France and Germany. The toughest test will likely come on June 13th against Chantal Laboureur & Sarah Schulz, the German side which made it to the final at a Challenge event in Doha, Qatar last month.

Pavan/Melissa will be joined by two other Canadian women’s teams in Italy. Tokyo Olympian Brandie Wilkerson (Toronto, ON) - who won four tournaments with Heather Bansley - has a new partner this year in Sophie Bukovec (Toronto, ON). Bukovec, the 6 foot tall defender, was an All American on the Beach at USC where she helped the Trojans win two NCAA titles. She joins Brandie Wilkerson on what has the potential to be a powerful team on tour. The highlights of their first season for Brandie/Bukovec are a 5th place showing at the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour event in Itapema, Brazil and a win on San Marcos Beach on the NORCECA Tour.

According to Bukovec, the team seems to have modest aspirations this year, “The goals for the World Championships is to continue to develop and learn as a team on a big stage. To perform under pressure. To go back to training with new things to work on that will help elevate our game for the next competition.” She adds, “Our team is athletic and aggressive… but we also love to enjoy each moment. If we stay patient and stay true to who we are as a team, I am confident we can find success at this tournament.”

Bukovec/Brandie start their Rome schedule at 9am eastern on June 10 against Switzerland’s Esmee Bobner & Zoe Verge-Depre. It’s a team that the Canadians recently beat 2-0 at the Kusadasi Challenge in Doha, Qatar. The highest seeded team in their pool is USA’s Betsi Flint & Kelly Cheng at number five.

Megan and Nicole McNamara are the 2018 World University Champions from British Columbia. After winning that title and helping UCLA win back to back NCAA crowns they are a fast improving team on the Beach Pro Tour. The McNamara twins earned their spot in Rome via the world rankings and enter the 48 team tournament as the number 22 seeds. Their season has included a 5th place finish at the tour stop in Doha, Qatar.

Nicole is the 5 foot 9 left handed blocker and her sister Megan is the 5 foot 9 right handed defender. They are a very athletic team that will peel off of the net often to defend attacks. Nicole McNamara has a good idea what it will take to succeed in Rome, “In order for us to be at our best, we must focus on ourselves and our strengths as a team. Being undersized we need to do things a little bit differently, which we have worked on all off-season with our coach Kyra Iannone.”

The McNamara’s begin play in Rome at 7am eastern time on Friday June 10th against Colombia’s Margarita Guzmann & Diana Rios, the 28th seeds.

Canada’s only representatives in the 48 team men’s draw includes a talented duo with a mix of international experience and inexperience.  Sam Schachter (Richmond Hill, ON) and Dan Dearing (Toronto, ON) make up the pairing that seems to be loaded with potential. Schachter brings the experience from previous World Championships, Olympic Games and many years on the World Tour. His resume even includes a win over the great Brazilian pair Riccardo & Emanuel at the Porec Major in Croatia, playing alongside Josh Binstock. 

Mark Heese, Olympic bronze medalist at Atlanta ’96, and CBC Sports commentator, has high praise for Schachter/Dearing along with a few words of caution, “Dearing has incredible leaping ability and can be very intimidating at the net. Good ball control and finesse too! All the physical tools to be a strong dynamic full time blocker on tour. Schachter is a highly skilled defender - in my opinion, one of the best ten defenders in the world. Great athleticism and good ball control can make this team very dangerous.

This team has the potential to compete with the very best, but they have to overcome a lack of experience as a team and the mental hurdle of staying healthy.”

Schachter/Dearing, the 32 year olds from the Toronto area begin their Worlds on Friday June 10 at 2pm eastern time against a team with home court advantage – Daniel Lupo and Alex Ranghieri.

Rome becomes the first city to host the Beach Volleyball World Championships twice after staging the event in 2011. Pool play begins on Friday June 10 and the medals will be awarded on Sunday June 19 at the Forto Italico.

Watch www.cbcsports.ca or VBTV 

Article by Rob Snoek / Photo: Volleyball World